Investigating the Composition and Structure of Hot Exoplanets with HST and JWST (speaker: Avi Mandell, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

Tuesday, November 10, 4:00pm
Marlar Lounge (37-252)

Hot transiting exoplanets represent an extreme end of the exoplanet distribution. They orbit very close to their host stars, which subjects them to intense heating from stellar radiation. However, they almost certainly did not form in their current short orbits, and their complex formation histories provide both an opportunity and an impediment for learning about their formation and migration.  Investigating their structure and composition through atmospheric characterization can help us break model degeneracies and develop a more holistic picture of the evolution of planetary systems in general.  In this talk I will discuss the current state of atmospheric characterization of hot transiting exoplanets, focusing primarily on results from the Hubble Space Telescope and future observations with the James Webb Space Telescope.  HST has provided the first opportunity for spectroscopy of a significant number of transiting exoplanets, and results over the last several years give us the first indication of trends in composition and atmospheric structure.  However, HST only barely provides the needed wavelength coverage and sensitivity for measuring key atmospheric absorption features across the near- and mid-infrared.  With an order of magnitude improvement in both IR wavelength coverage and sensitivity, JWST will revolutionize our ability to constrain the atmospheric composition of a wide array of planets and break degeneracies between different absorbers, leading to new breakthroughs in our understanding of the atmospheric temperature structure, the role of clouds and hazes, and the overall classification of planetary atmospheres and what this tells us about how planets form.Talk Host:  Hans Moritz Guenther


additional information about Avi Mandell